Gratitude: Appreciating the Big and the Little Things

One of the things that I wanted to improve on from my last year in medical school was learning to slow down and appreciate the little things around me. I loathed the fact that mornings were rushed and it seemed like we were always ordering the kids around and rushing them out the door. With better time management and changes to our parenting approach, the mornings during the past week have been beautiful. I know that not every morning will go smoothly but I am simply grateful for those that do. This morning I felt grateful for 4 things:

  1. Brushing my little girl’s hair: I had dreamed of doing this ever since I was a teenager. After my first pregnancy ended in a traumatic miscarriage, it sometimes seems like a dream that both she and my son are actually here in my life.
  2. Getting hugs from my dear son: As I was getting things ready this morning, my son suddenly stopped me and said, “Mummy, I want to do something”…he then enveloped me in a deep, long hug. Moments like these make the challenges of motherhood seem more than worth it!
  3. Being in medical school: As I looked over the voluminous material I need to learn over the next few weeks, I simply sat back and drank in the fact that although it’s a challenge, I am doing what I have been wanting to do for so long…and I love it!
  4. My Heavenly Father: I love the scripture in Psalms that describes God as a “Father to the fatherless” and a “Defender“. Having lost my father unexpectedly when I was 5 years old, I truly have seen God be a Father to me through the years. Despite the ups and downs, He has always been there for me. He is my hope and everlasting peace!

Take a moment to stop and reflect. What are you grateful for today?

Featured image courtesy of versiondaily.com

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First Day Back at Medical School…Year 2

Today was the first day back at medical school and I am excited to have started on the next block…Reproduction! From looking ahead at the schedule for the next month, we will be covering plenty of topics that interest me such as prenatal diagnosis, obstetrics and breastfeeding. The block will be heavy in anatomy and histology which is a big challenge! Although it takes me time to master anatomy names, I do enjoy this part of the medical curriculum. Histology has been one of my favorite areas since the beginning of medical school. I feel like my brain just gets it which is very rewarding!

This afternoon, I had my first session for my Community Health Alliance Project (CHAP). This is where we each get to volunteer with an organization out in the community in order to give us more exposure. My community organization is in the area of Mental Health. I chose this because I do not know much about mental health issues yet I have seen it affect people around me. I am curious to know more about it, how it is managed and how I can help to break the stigma around it. The people at the organization were very welcoming and seem extremely passionate about what they do. I was very inspired by the inter-professionalism and I am excited to be a part of the team for the next few months.

I am hoping to try and keep a balanced approach to life during this second year of medical school. I know it will not be easy but it is my sincere wish to keep God and my family as my top priorities, to make time for exercise and rest, as I give my best effort to my school work!

PS… If you love to read as much as I do, or if you’re simply looking for something new to read, please do visit my “Books to Read” page. I have updated it with several new titles that I read over the summer. I hope you will find them as useful or inspirational as I did! Enjoy!

When Striving Towards Your Goal Feels Like a Marathon

There is no doubt that medical school sometimes feels like a marathon. There are moments of high energy and exhilaration. There are also moments when we feel like we are running out of fuel. The pace is fast, intense and requires consistent focus. If there is anything I am learning, it is absolutely necessary to take moments to slow down, reflect and catch our breath. Why are we doing this in the first place? Do we still have our eyes on the finish line? Are we taking time to enjoy the scenery as we run the race?

This week I felt exhausted from all the demands of medical school and family life. I woke up this morning feeling mentally and emotionally tired. I went before God in prayer asking for strength that only He can give. As I opened my Bible, I came across verses that immediately encouraged me and reminded me that it’s ok to feel weak sometimes. It’s ok to fall on our knees, hang our head and call out for some help. In that moment, we just need to take stock of the attitudes permeating our hearts and minds, and lift our head back up to keep our eyes fixed firmly on our prize. We will get to the end of the race and reach our goals in due time!

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I press on towards the goal…” Philippians 3:14

Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Photo credit: http://www.towpathmarathon.net/

Highlights and Lessons Learned from the Second Month of Medical School

The second block of medical school is complete! We just spent the last 5 weeks learning about lung structure, function,  diseases, diagnoses and treatments, interspersed with a few lectures on clinical method, epidemiology and genetics. My favorite parts of this block were the anatomy and histology labs, and learning how to interpret chest X-rays and CT scans. We also learned the basics of how to perform bedside ultrasound. I love how hands-on the curriculum at my university is!

In mid-October, I had the wonderful opportunity to shadow a pathologist and two pathology residents for half a day and I loved it! The atmosphere was very welcoming and I was allowed to sit in on some cases at the microscope. Fascinating!

During one of my clinical sessions at a private Family practice, I got to perform my very first physical examination on a patient. I was a little nervous at first (especially since I have very cold hands) but the patient was very gracious as I stumbled along trying to figure out how to use my stethoscope and the blood pressure machine.

My final exam on this block was tough but I felt good about it overall. The week before the exam, I started to recognize signs in myself of feeling a little burnt out so I took a break from studying and went for the women’s fellowship at our church during the week. It was so rejuvenating to exercise with the ladies, chat and study the Bible. What I was challenged about most was resuming my daily devotional time with God (particularly first thing in the morning). I have to admit that with the busyness of school and  family, I have not been as consistent with my quiet time. I was reminded how important it is to have daily reflective time alone to recharge and gather my thoughts! Whenever you suspect that your life may be going out of balance, acknowledge it and try to address it as best you can. Medical school is demanding and it’s important to take care of your emotional and spiritual needs too.

The other item that challenged me during the bible study was to reflect on what things I can improve on in my character. There is always room for improvement. For me, the 2 areas I would like to work on are patience (particularly with my children) and humility (it is important to remain teachable, humble and remember that every person is valuable).

As I start Block C of medical school (Circulation), I am so grateful for all that I have learned during the past 2 months! It’s been both challenging and fantastic!

Each Day is a Gift

One week left to medical school! I cannot believe how fast the summer has gone by! I have really enjoyed spending time with my family and watching the kids grow. Some of the things that I was reminded of this summer was how important it is to appreciate each day and to let those you love know how much you care about them. Each day is truly a gift!

I have found that taking stock of each day and meditating on what I have to be grateful for helps to temper the worries and frustrations of day-to-day life. Three things I read or heard this past week also gave me pause for thought:

  1. Let those you come into contact with feel that they are important and worth something: In the book God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet, a California-based physician tells her story of practicing medicine. One of the hospitalized patients was a woman who was on her death-bed. When Dr. Sweet asked what else could be done for her, the patient simply asked for something different to eat at her mealtimes and to have new eyeglasses since her current ones were broken. I can imagine that the physician was taken aback by this simple request that meant so much. Sometimes we may feel that we cannot make a difference but there is always an opportunity to show appreciation even if it means asking a simple question or demonstrating a caring gesture.
  2. Forgive from the heart: In Matthew 18 of the Bible, Jesus depicts a vivid parable of a servant who owes a large debt to his master and another servant who owes a smaller debt to his fellow servant. The  master forgives the debt but the servant shows no mercy towards his fellow servant. Jesus explains the consequences of an unforgiving attitude and implores his listeners to forgive from the heart. Jesus’ choice of words touched me because ‘forgiveness from the heart’ to me implies a deep, complete and unshakable forgiveness.
  3. Prioritize your life: I had an inspiring chat with my oldest brother who is a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon based in Kenya. As I spoke with him about how he manages balancing his career with family, his words of wisdom rang true: prioritize your life. For him that meant 1) God 2) Spouse 3) Children 4) Career. Of course there are plenty of other things that make up our lives such as our social life and hobbies but often our family life and work are the most difficult to balance. Priorities mean different things to different people but having an idea of what comes first and what we are not willing to compromise on can guide us when trying to navigate the busy waters of life.
Family picture August 2016
 So grateful for my precious family! Each day is a gift!

Moving on from Rejection

It’s never easy getting past rejection. It can cause us to question ourselves, wonder if we made the wrong decisions or even tempt us to give up. But rejection is not the end of the story. It can be the beginning of a new, exciting path to our destination!

Yesterday, I received my first official rejection letter from the 5 medical schools I applied to. There was something about seeing the words “I regret to inform you…” that was so stark and disappointing. Yet, at the same time, it gave me a sense of closure and peace that this avenue had closed and it was time to turn my mind to other paths.

In the past, I would have viewed this rejection letter as a personal failure and stewed over it for some time.  Now, I am learning more and more to turn to God for His strength in my weak moments and trusting in His grace to see me through life’s disappointments and struggles. And I am reminded that obstacles and closed doors are part of the journey of perseverance and staying the course.

I have confidence in my ability to get into medical school and I am so grateful for my friends, family and readers who continue to support me on my quest to becoming a doctor. No matter how long it takes, I plan to get there one day!

My husband called me from work shortly after I received the letter to check on how I was doing, “We keep going, I’m behind you all the way“.

My brother sent me an email.”We proceed. You will go to the place that sees and places full value on you. There you will be celebrated and thrive. Tuendelee! We’ll get there!”

So as I wait until January 2016 to hear back from the other medical schools I applied to, I take comfort in knowing that God has the perfect plan for me and it will all work out as it should. In the meantime, I have innumerable blessings that I am grateful for and that I plan to enjoy!

If you have a goal, particularly one that is taking a long time to achieve, don’t let rejection or delays stop you from persevering. Keep going! Once we get to our destination, it will be all the more sweeter for the challenges we were able to overcome to get there!

 

Crossing the Bridge of Forgiveness

Today marked the fourth week of our study on the “40 Days of Love“. This week’s topic tackled the challenging issue of demonstrating love through forgiveness. We have all experienced hurt in our lives in some shape or form and it can be so difficult to get past it, to forgive and move on. What does forgiveness entail?

As difficult as this can be to do, especially when we are going through hurt and disappointment, forgiveness means letting go of the desire to get even, responding with kindness and not keeping a record of that wrong. The hardest part about forgiveness is that we are called to keep on forgiving even when the offense is repeated!

Forgiving is NOT minimizing the seriousness of an offense. In choosing to forgive someone of a wrong, we are not saying that what they did was of no consequence or was justified. The pain is real and it’s important that this is acknowledged. Once we have forgiven a person, what’s next? Candid communication, willingness to change negative behaviors and time are needed to rebuild and regain the trust of the person who has been hurt.

I am learning that forgiveness is a decision. We decide to move past the hurt and avoid falling into the trap of resentment and bitterness. In looking through the lens of forgiveness, we actually begin to see the hurt that the other person is going through. When people lash out or hurt us, they are often going through something difficult themselves, which gets taken out on others. Part of the healing between both parties is acknowledging the hurt on both sides, letting it go and moving towards reconciliation. This can be very difficult to do in some situations, but vital to the healing process.

Why forgive? Aside from the release and freedom it gives our souls, it shows a humility that we too are imperfect and need forgiveness.

Week 4 Challenge: Is there someone who needs your forgiveness? Try to work towards letting go of any resentment or bitterness towards that person.

“Love…keeps no record of wrongs” 1 Cor. 13: 5

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…” Luke 6:27-28

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another…” Col. 3:13